Solar Shed

Chronicles of my efforts to install an automated solar powered air conditioner into our shed.

Current Goals:

Add heat lamp for winter

Add thermostat to switch between heating/cooling automatically

Insulate!

Current configuration:

(7) 100W Mono panels

(7) 20A inline MC4 Diodes

(7) 10A inline MC4 Fuses

(1) 20A MPPT Solar charge controller

(1) 50A DC-to-DC charge controller w/MPPT

(1) 30A Mini-ANL fuse

(1) 80A Mini-ANL fuse

(1) 70A Mini-ANL fuse

(1) 150A Mini-ANL fuse

(1) 60A Bolt-on fuse

(2) 80A Bolt-on fuse

(1) 250A Termination block

(1) 1500W Inverter – pure sine

(2) 12V Deep cycle marine battery

(1) LiFePO4 50Ah battery

(1) 410W Window mounted air-conditioner

(1) Set 30A MC4 branch adapter 1:4

(1) Set 8AWG MC4 cables 15ft

(1) Set 10AWG MC4 cables 15ft

(2) Mini-ANL terminal blocks

(1) 4″ DIN Rail

(1) 25A DC DP-DT Circuit Breaker

(1) 32A DC DP-DT Circuit Breaker

4 AWG cable (black and red, about 8ft)

6 AWG cable (black and red, about 8ft)

8 AWG cable (black and red, about 12ft)

(1) MC4 Inline power meter 8AWG

(1) Inline power meter with shunt and display

(1) 12VDC Switchbox

(1) 24VDC Switchbox

(1) 5-24VDC Timer Re;ay

(2) 24VDC cooling fans

Current Activity:

Cooling now fully automated but, I am planning to reconfigure things following a few winter mornings with a very low battery.

A Renogy DC-to-DC battery charger is the heart of my system, it was a perfect way for me to add lithium to my original lead acid setup. However, I should not have assumed this unit would work with any run of the mill 100W panel (like pretty much any cheapo PWM or MPPT controller might) because it has a very low voltage ceiling and will not charge from solar input if voltage is >25V. The voltage on my particular brand of panels (TP-Solar) is 27V open circuit, and anywhere from 19V to 26V when connected. Adding insult to injury, if there are panels connected >25V anyway, the unit will basically halt and lead acid bank/solar will not be used at all until solar is disconnected momentarily to clear the over-voltage state (draining the lithium with nothing at all to help with loads until that happens).

I tried to work around this issue by adding a 20A inline MC4 blocking diode to each panel (when you add a diode inline voltage is reduced by .7V), but I still intermittently found it in the state where its not charging, so I added a higher current blocking diode (for 1.4V drop) just before the charge controller, and that seems to have reduced the frequency that this occurs. High current diode generates quite a bit of heat so I have it mounted to a heat-sink and am cooling it with the 24v’ish input power from solar with 24VDC fans, so they do not use any battery at all, and only run when the sun is out.

Adding heat to my environment was not desirable, and I suspect the whole problem can be addressed with firmware by Renogy. All the unit needs to do is keep polling to see if still >25 and take action when this changes, manual intervention to disconnect/reconnect solar to eliminate >25 state should NOT be required 🙁

So the plan now is to not use any solar at all on the Renogy controller and add two cheap PWM controllers that charge the Lead Acid bank in place of that, the renogy will use ‘alternator’ to charge the lithium only, with no potential for over voltage hangup. I learned I will be able to get all 50A out of the renogy controller this this way, so that is a bonus.

Here is a rough sketch of how I wired the controllers:

Future Plans:

To insulate, I am planning to first add caulking, and then reflective air bubble insulation over that. Might also need some stripping around door to make it seal better, I can see a little bit of light from outside when everything is closed up.

(1) 250W Heat lamp – Now that cooling is automated, looking into possibilities to automate heating in the winter.

(1) 1200W Thermostat – I plan to use something like this to automatically switch between my summer (cooling) and winter (heating) loads.

(1) 500F Supercapacitor – This could help with voltage drop when compressor kicks in (rough on the equipment). Supercaps are known to greatly improve battery life, and last a very long time compared to batteries. Unfortunately they are cost prohibitive. To get the size needed to use my inverter with a constant load of 1500 watts I’d want 200 Farads which is not cheap. May be premature to invest in one of these now, but I’m very eager to experiment with these. I really hate lead acid, when my lead acid batteries are all used up I could see putting one of these in their place, and/or maybe even try a small 32V module for panel side of charger(s). Since MPPT chargers are effectively buck converters, they could be useful for draining a capacitor’s stored energy from high to low voltage, tapping their potential in a different way, although the only benefit that comes to mind doing something like that would be stabilizing power for X minutes when a cloud passes.

(1) Low Voltage Disconnect – Draining a battery too far can ruin it, and batteries can be expensive

(1) 600W Grid-tie plugin inverter – I am often producing more solar than I am consuming, so I need to start throwing the excess at our electric bill. From what I understand these plug-in inverters are super easy, you just plug them into the wall to spin your meter backwards. Hard part is going to be figuring out the transfer mechanisms between what the off-grid needs, and what this thing gets. Grey as to whether this Amazon purchase would be legal to use, I suspect not. Whatever I end up buying must meet the following requirements based on my research thus far:

  • California Rule 21 compliant (supporting 2019 advanced features)
  • IEEE 1547 compliant
  • UL 1741 tested